NELSON MANDELA: The Heart of A Great Sportsman

 I’ve listen and read a lot of the tributes pouring around this great man, Nelson Mandela. But it interests me to note that none of the speakers or writers ever mentioned his religion or how rich he was financially, how many mansions he owned or how large his business empire is. It didn’t matter this time around. But I thought these were the criteria for ranking great men in the world. Yet their tributes were all centered on his leadership qualities and the nature of his heart.

Madiba had a heart of gold, a heart to forgive and the will to reconcile with all men during his life time.

One thing that cut my attention and I guess, the attention of many around the world, was how Mandela invited and had a lavish lunch with his vindictive prosecutor, Percy Yutar, who put him in jail for 27 years. That really touched my heart. I guess it would have been more natural that Mandela invites him for a punch rather than a lunch. But no! Madiba was different. He was of the God kind. He would rather demonstrate a great heart of sportsmanship.

It is the virtue most sports were meant to add to our characters. For instance, at the end of a football game, players shake hands and exchange shirts, forgetting all the hard knocks and tackles during hostility. It is the spirit of sportsmanship, the ability to submit one self and to forgive one another irrespective of physical and emotional injuries sustained during the encounter.

I used this illustration because I know Mandela was a great lover of the beautiful game, football. And I strongly believe that he may have played the game one time in his aces days. Mandela was instrumental to South Africa winning the host and successfully hosting FIFA world cup in 2010. That was the first and only time an African country ever hosted the mundial.

Recently, every year, a commemorative friendly football match tagged ‘The Mandela Challenge’ was hosted in South Africa to mark his birthday. You may recall that Super Eagles of Nigeria won the last edition; the 95th birthday and indeed, his last birthday alive.

Mandela is a football hero of a kind. No wonder many football stars continue to swamp twitter with tributes. Cristano Ronaldo tweet, “Thank you Madiba for your legacy and example. You’ll always stay with us.” Didier Drogba and Ebue tributes on their inner vests nearly got them into trouble at their clubs. However, FIFA President, Sepp Blatter and many football big wings and clubs have been sending their own tributes too.

It’s so remarkable that the life of Mandela was a journey of a true sportsman, in character and in physical fitness. Madiba was full of life, even at 95; he was still ready to push on. Today, he remain our role model! He represents equality of the human race and true freedom. Not only did he fought and conquered the apartheid regime, but he was able to reconcile all parties. He was a noble prize winner and the first black president of South Africa. Though, he may have passed on to the great beyond, but he still live in our Hearts. ADIEU MADIBA!

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